Would you like to be part of the
BFF Beta Brigade
to help BFF authors as they polish
their stories for readers like you?
What is Beta Reading?
Beta Reading is reading a manuscript - before it has gone through professional editing - noting, as a reader, what works for you and what doesn’t. It is not about your knowledge of the craft of writing or rules of grammar.
Who are Beta Readers?
Beta Readers are passionate readers who are prepared to read a manuscript in an unpolished form and provide honest, respectful feedback.
What qualifications do you need to be a Beta Reader?
- Beta Readers need to love to read.
- Ideally a writer will have Beta Readers who are both avid readers of their genre as well as a few readers who are less familiar.
- Beta Readers need to have time to read and report back in a timely manner.
- Beta Readers should be generous with their thoughtful feedback.
Beta Readers should be prepared to read and report back on such issues as:
- confusing sentences or plot points
- where your attention wavers
- whether you find the characters believable/likeable/sympathetic, etc.
Authors may provide a list of questions/areas for you to focus on when reading their manuscript.
5 Top Tips for Responding to an Author:
1. Be honest - Be prepared to answer the author’s questions clearly but constructively, even if your response is critical or negative. They’re asking because they want to know.
2. Be specific - “I really loved it!” or “I thought the plot was boring,” are not much help to the author.
Author Connie Flynn advises that we should avoid “Why did you . . .?” feedback comments. "Why" questions along those lines tend to put people on the defensive. She suggests these excellent critique phrases:
- I don’t understand . . . (whatever it is).
- The detail seems . . . (to slow the pace, unnecessary, etc.).
- The . . . (character, setting, etc.) is coming across . . . (feisty, depressing, important, etc.). Is that what you intended?
- Did you want to convey (irritation, happiness, whatever)?
- How did . . . (Sally get to the store, John cut down the tree, etc.)? (Used to point out missing information.)
- Wasn’t . . . (John a blue-eyed man, Sally submissive, etc.) in Chapter (xx)? (Used to point out inconsistent information.)
- Carol’s (goal) seems to be . . . Is that correct?
- I’m confused about John’s motivation.
- And most important: I really liked . . . (end your feedback with a positive!)
3. Be thoughtful - Mean what you say, say what you mean, but don’t say it mean!
A Beta Reader’s role is to provide constructive criticism without being savage. “Your plot is dreadful”, or “I thought your main character was absolutely awful” may leave the author feeling hurt and defensive, and it doesn’t give them any ideas on what specifically you think needs to be changed.
Focus on possible solutions, rather than the problem, such as: “Have you considered . . .” “What if the main character. . .” “I like it when the hero . . .”
4. Observe deadlines - While you may be doing the author a favor, they’re depending on your feedback by a set time and probably have deadlines to meet which can’t easily be altered. Once you agree to a deadline, keep it, or let the author know as soon as possible if you can’t.
5. Show respect for the author -
- Focus – Your focus should be on the questions/areas the author has asked you to focus on. Don’t provide lots of unasked for feedback. You’ll be wasting your time and the author’s.
- No pet peeves – If you can’t stand stories with ladies with a lisp, or men with moulting moustaches just remember, as a Beta Reader, you are there to serve the author’s preferences, not your own.
- Author’s Vision – Your job is to help the author realize their vision for their story. Do your best to work out what type and tone the author is aiming for, and shape your comments to support that vision.
- Author’s Autonomy – The author, of course, will complete the manuscript as they see fit—using your suggestions, or not. Once you’ve sent in your comments, to quote a popular song, “Let it go!”
- Trust – As Jordon McCollum so clearly points out in “The Ethics of Beta Reading” (jordanmccollum.com) “You have been taken into a position of trust. The ethical beta reader understands that they are reviewing a book in a prepublication format.” Therefore, it is understood that you will not share what you’ve read, nor review or use it in any other format or forum, public or private.
What if . . .?
- I choose not to finish the piece?
- I notice grammatical and spelling errors?
- I don't like a scene or character?
If you think this sounds like something you would be willing and happy to do, please Contact me, and I will send you a Google Form to fill out so that we can match you with stories that are in your preferred genre.
BFF Editing Logo created by Benjamin Schieber
Kate's photos provided by Scott Schieber.
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